Watershed Health


Stream Flow Monitoring

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority monitors stream flow, rainfall and other meteorological information at locations across the watershed. The information is transmitted from each station to the NPCA’s Head Office in Welland, Ontario, in near-real time where it is monitored and analyzed. The data gives us an up to date picture of the conditions within the watershed and allows us to develop a deeper understanding of the fluxes and behaviour of the systems.

Please click here for the latest Stream Flow Monitoring updates. Click HERE to learn more about NPCA's Flood Warnings.

Below are some great documents to reference for information: 

NOAA Great Lakes Operational Forecast Systems:

Water Quality Monitoring

Since 2001, the NPCA has developed an extensive water quality monitoring program within its jurisdiction. This program includes monitoring the surface water of major and smaller watercourses and monitoring significant groundwater aquifers. The information generated through this program helps the NPCA understand how surface water and groundwater systems function and provides information about their overall health. 

The NPCA monitoring network is operated in partnership with the municipalities and Ontario Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks with the Provincial Water Quality Monitoring Program and Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Program.  The main objective of this program is to assess water quality in local watersheds using a network of chemical and biological monitoring stations. The NPCA and its partners can use this knowledge to provide programs and develop policies to protect and improve the water resources within the watershed.

What is Our Water Quality Data Telling Us?

Most of the surface water monitoring sites in NPCA watershed have poor water quality. Nutrient and bacteria contamination from non-point sources (agricultural/livestock runoff and faulty septic systems) and point sources (combined sewer overflow) continue to be the major causes of water quality impairment in the NPCA watershed.

The groundwater quality at most NPCA monitoring wells is good but some wells did exceed Ontario Drinking Water Standards. Most well exceedances were attributed to natural bedrock conditions. Groundwater levels at most wells vary seasonally with their highest water levels being observed during the late winter and early spring but drop to their lowest level during the fall months.

Surface Water Monitoring

The NPCA collects surface water samples eight times a year on a monthly basis during ice-free periods from a network of 80 surface water sampling sites across the NPCA watershed. When collecting samples the NPCA test the water in the field for temperature, dissolved oxygen and conductivity but also submits samples to laboratory analysis for numerous parameters, including general chemistry, nutrients, metals and bacteria. This water chemistry program is operated in partnership with the Ontario’s Provincial Water Quality Monitoring Network and the Niagara Region.

The NPCA also has an in-depth biological monitoring program, the goal of which is to assess aquatic ecosystems using benthic invertebrates as indicators of water quality. Benthic macroinvertebrates are large, bottom dwelling insects such as crustaceans, worms, mollusks and related organisms that live in the water. They are good indicators of water quality as they respond to changes in water quality. The NPCA uses Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network Protocol for its biological monitoring program.

Overall, this monitoring of water chemistry and benthic macroinvertebrates allows the NPCA to identify potential sources/causes of poor stream health and target effective strategies to improve stream health within our watershed.

Groundwater Monitoring

A network of groundwater monitoring wells has been established across the watershed to monitor the quality and quantity of the groundwater resources in the region. The NPCA groundwater monitoring program consists of 31 NPCA wells and 15 wells through the Ontario Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network  which monitor a number of different aquifers. Data from these wells is being used to make informed decisions about water testing and treatment of private wells, water allocation (under the MECP’s Permit To-Take-Water program), drinking water source protection planning and potential climate change impacts. Results from water quality sampling areas are used to inform municipalities of any exceedances of the Ontario Drinking Water Standards that might occur in aquifers within their jurisdiction.

Where Do You find the Best Water Quality in the NPCA Watershed?

The upper Twelve Mile Creek tributaries have the best naturally occurring water quality due to large input of groundwater.  Other watersheds such the Lower Twelve Mile Creek, Lower Welland River and Welland Canal have good water quality owing to the strong influence of water input of Lake Erie and the Niagara River.

How Can We Improve Water Quality in our Watersheds?

Surface Water

  • Plant vegetative buffers along watercourses for shade and to filter pollutants.
  • Implement agricultural Best Management Practices in rural areas which reduce soil erosion, and limit nutrient and bacteria runoff.
  • In urban areas, implement stormwater planning using Low Impact Development, stormwater Best Management Practices, erosion control, and upgrade sewer systems.


  • Ensure wells are properly sealed and cased. Poorly constructed casings allow surface water to seep along the outside of the casing into groundwater.
  • Locate wells up-slope and away from sources of contaminants. Locate wells away and up-slope from septic systems, manure storage areas and feedlots. Maximizing the distance between the well and contaminant sources minimizes the risk of contamination.
  • Properly plug abandoned and unused wells. Abandoned wells are a serious risk to groundwater quality. Improperly plugged wells can act as a direct conduit for contaminants to reach groundwater.

Results Monitoring

Water Quality Reports detailing this initiative are produced annually and available here: Summary Report of the Year 2023.

The Water Quality Monitoring Program completed the NPCA Groundwater Study in 2005. Provincial water quality data that is collected by the NPCA is now available through the Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s map portal, Click Here to view.


Watershed Studies

Integrated watershed management (IWM) is the process of managing human activities and natural resources on a watershed basis​, considering social, economic and environmental issues, as well as local community​ interests and matters such as the impacts of growth and climate change. It’s the local approach to natural resources management that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority utilizes and advocates throughout its program and services. Heavily predicated on adaptive management principles, it is a fundamental cycle of inventory, assessment, and management activities typically culminating in the development of a plan.

An Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP) is a guiding document for use by landowners, governments, planners, and all other stakeholders in a watershed. It sets out
common goals and objectives for the long-term management of land and water resources in the basin, guiding efforts to maintain and enhance the watershed’s natural heritage resources through land acquisition, protection and restoration strategies.

Between 2003 and 2011, NPCA worked in partnership with the Region of Niagara through the former Niagara Water Strategy to complete 12 plans for the Peninsula’s 18 Watershed Planning Areas, compile an initial Natural Areas Inventory (NAI), and subsequently assess the existing natural heritage system (NHS) remaining through a multi stakeholder engagement process. This project, entitled ‘Nature for Niagara’s Future’ measured that the Niagara Peninsula currently achieves 56% towards what science recommends is required at minimum for the landscape to remain environmentally healthy, sustainable and resilient.

Watershed and sub-watershed planning form the foundations from which to deliver NPCA’s mandated programs and services in an adaptive, integrated watershed management approach to local natural resource management.

Nature for Niagara’s Future Project

Natural Areas Inventory

Watershed Report Cards

Since 2005, the NPCA and its partners have produced report cards to inform its residents on the overall health of the Niagara Peninsula watershed. The Watershed Report Card is part of an initiative by conservation authorities to evaluate key indicators of watershed health with guidelines and grading system provided by Conservation Ontario. This report is created every 5 years. 

The 2023 report card, despite some low grades, gives a clear snapshot of the status of the watershed in 2023, a baseline against which we can use to measure all future efforts. These grades are typical of watersheds in Southern Ontario. The good news is that the Niagara Peninsula watershed scored well with respect to groundwater quality, and the amount of wetland cover within its area, but there is still some work to do regarding the quality of surface water and forest cover.

NPCA works in many local, provincial and federal partnerships with governments, other agencies, landowners, and residents to plan and deliver watershed management programs that strive to keep the Niagara Peninsula watershed healthy.

To find out more about what individuals, community groups, and businesses can do to help, please see complete 2023 Niagara Peninsula Watershed Report Card. Read complete media release HERE

Please note: The NPCA’s role is to evaluate the quality of local watersheds and provide that information to the public and our partners. By doing this, the NPCA can measure environmental change, improve local knowledge, focus natural resource management actions where they are needed most, and motivate action in our watershed. The NPCA’s water and land resources provide important ecological, economic, and societal benefits to its residents, and the organization continues to ensure its programs contribute to a healthier watershed.

The NPCA fulfills its responsibility to evaluate the quality of the watershed alongside upper and lower tier local municipalities, The Province of Ontario (MOECC, MNRF and OMARFA) and Environment Canada and Climate Change.

Native Plants & Trees

Native Plants have evolved naturally, growing in your area, and find its’ soil and climate home. Plants from seed sources closest to your site will survive best, having adapted these local soil and climate conditions.

As the public becomes more concerned about the environment, the interest in the preservation and restoration of native plant communities increases as well. Native plants are valued for their economic, ecological, genetic, and aesthetic benefits in addition to the growing societal belief in their intrinsic value as living species.

Every year, more than 150 species of plants and animals become extinct globally. By incorporating natural areas on your property, pollutants are filtered from the surface, erosion is reduced, flooding is slowed and water can keep flowing in our creeks and streams throughout the year. Your efforts to improve and protect local water quality, will help protect wildlife populations and species diversity for future generations.

  • For increased plant survival ask for plants/seed with origin from EcoDistrict 37 (7E-3 and 7E5)
  • Order plants by scientific name to ensure native species, and
  • Ensure plants are not endangered or threatened. These plants require very specific areas only.
  • Check the NPCA Native Plant Guide for Native Niagara Plant Species

Learn more about Native Plants and Trees as they relate to the Restoration Grant Program and Community Outreach & Engagement  work.






Native Plant Suppliers

Rick and Marion Robertson



Ernie & Linda Grimo



John Vanderkruk



John Verbinnen & Bernard Teeninga



Helpful Resources

Special Projects & Programs

Source Water Protection

All of us in Ontario have a role to play in protecting our fresh water. Protecting water at its source is the first step in ensuring we all have access to safe drinking water. By stopping contaminants from getting into sources of drinking water, we can provide the first line of defense in the protection of our environment and our health.

For detailed information about the Source Water Protection Initiative and its implementation in the NPCA watershed, visit www.sourceprotection-niagara.ca

Learn More About Source Water Protection

Niagara's Source Protection Plan

The Clean Water Act received Royal Assent on October 19, 2006. The Act ensures communities are able to protect their municipal drinking water supplies through developing collaborative, locally driven, science-based protection plans.

Communities will identify potential risks to local water sources and take action to reduce or eliminate these risks. Municipalities, conservation authorities, property owners, farmers, industry, community groups and the public will all work together to meet common goals.

Click here to read more about the plan. 

Niagara Peninsula Source Protection Area

The Niagara Peninsula Source Protection Area (NPSPA) is located between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie , and covers the same area as the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA).

The NPSPA is 2,424 km 2 in size, and the jurisdiction covers the Regional Municipality of Niagara (Regional Niagara) and approximately 20% of the City of Hamilton and 25% of Haldimand County .

There are also 12 second tier municipalities located within Regional Niagara.

Source Protection Committee

In 2006, the Ontario government passed the Clean Water Act to help protect our municipal drinking water sources, as part of an overall commitment to safeguard human health and the environment. The legislation sets prevention as its fundamental principle. Keeping the sources of our drinking water free of contamination is smarter, safer and more effective than cleaning up problems after the fact.

A key component of the Clean Water Act was the development of science-based and locally-administered source protection plans that would help protect our drinking water sources now and in the future.  The development of these plans was overseen locally by source protection committees.

The Niagara Peninsula Source Protection Committee is one of 19 committees across the province.

Applications are now being accepted to fill the following positions:

  • Public-at-Large Representative
  • Industrial Representative
  • Agricultural Representative

Learn more here. Deadline: January 26, 2023, 12 p.m.

Niagara River (Ontario) Remedial Action Plan (RAP)

Under the 1987 Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the Niagara River was listed as one of forty-three Great Lakes Areas of Concern due to pollution problems leading to ecosystem degradation. Since that time, several local organizations and groups (including the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority) have worked together to implement the Niagara River Remedial Action Plan (RAP) to restore and protect water quality and ecosystem health in the Niagara River.

The NPCA has been an active participant in the RAP initiative since its inception in the late 1980s and has completed many activities in the watershed toward the improvement of the Niagara River ecosystem. In April 1999, the NPCA took an active leadership role and became the host organization for administering and coordinating the RAP initiative. With funding support from the federal and provincial government, the NPCA continues to fulfill the secretariat services for the RAP initiative and participates in several committees.

Over 50% of the Niagara Peninsula watershed drains into the Niagara River. We all have a role to play in the improving the Niagara River! Learn more at www.ourniagarariver.ca.


Yellow Fish Road

The Yellow Fish Road program is a nation-wide environmental education initiative launched by Trout Unlimited Canada in 1991.

Thousands of Canadian youth have participated in the Yellow Fish Road program to learn about their water supply and the impact their community has on clean water. Participants remind their community of the importance of clean water and properly disposing of hazardous wastes by painting yellow fish near storm drains and distributing fish-shaped brochures.

Since the program’s inception in 1991 Youth Groups all over Canada have:

  • distributed 1 million fish hangers
  • marked 100,000 storm drains across the country with 60,000 volunteers participating
  • Yellow Fish Road™ is effective because children reinforce the knowledge they have gained by taking action to help ensure clean water in their community. Yellow Fish Road has been initiated internationally – including countries like the US, Australia and Scotland.

Learn more about the Yellow Fish Road program and how to get involved!